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The above will is of my ancestor, Nathan Minshew. If you look at the last page he put his mark on this will on 16 April 1818.  He died two days later. It looks like he has already given his children their inheritance, because he says at the very first that “Elizabeth Holmes, my oldest child has had two cows and calves, one feather bed and furniture.” What I loved about finding this will was several things.

1. The names of his children that were still alive in 1818 when he died.  Since the US didn’t start listing all family members names until 1850, this is a real treasure. 

2. The married last names of his daughters. There are early marriage records in North Carolina, but without this will, I would not even know the first names of his children. 

3. Interesting to learn that their slaves were handed down since they were property as well.

4. He is giving land to his sons, so we know that he owned land and could search for his land record to find out exactly where they were living in the early 1800s. 

5. He doesn’t mention his wife, so she might have died earlier.

It was definitely a good thing that he made a will before he died, otherwise it would have taken a while to sort out everything.  If a person dies without a will or intestate, the state usually becomes involved, and especially if they have property, it can get messy figuring it out.  So, I was so thankful he left a will.

How did I find his will?

You need to know the county and state he was living in to find the Probate Records.

I knew he was living in Wayne County North Carolina in 1810, so I went to FamilySearch.org and hit the Search, catalog, and typed in North Carolina, Wayne for the place search below. 


Hit the Search Button and the following will appear


Click on Probate records, notice that there are 15 probate records!!


So, since his last name was Minshew, I pulled the microfilm # 1605021 while I was in SLC.  Sure enough, they had his will. I was able to copy it or now you can scan it and save it to a thumb drive while you are at the library.  You can also order this microfilm online and have it sent to our FHC.

At Rootstech, Ancestry.com shared that they are putting $100 million in the next 3 years into digitizing US probate records. This is going to be awesome. In the meantime, if you need help  finding a will, let me know. It is definitely worth the search.


Find an ancestors will in the familysearch.org catalog.  Remember to look in the county they died in.




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